Lyn Abramson, Martin Seligman and John Teasdale (1978), Learned helplessness in humans: Critique and reformulation. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 87:49-74
The authors explore Seligman’s theory of learned helplessness, particularly in humans. They argue that helplessness is a consequence of a person’s expectancy that future outcomes would not be influenced by their present actions—that a noncontingency at the present time would be translated into a future expectancy of noncontingency. Generalized helplessness is distinguished from deficits that are limited to certain tasks and circumstances. Likewise, short-term helplessness is differentiated from lasting helplessness. These differences are reflected in causal attribution. Debriefing after the experiment seeks to prevent long-term helplessness by changing a global, internal attribution (“I’m stupid.”) to a specific, external one (“This test was rigged.”)
Severity of deficits is independent of generality and chronicity, and is related to the perceived likelihood of noncontingency. The authors speculate that self-esteem and affective deficits will increase with the likelihood of noncontingency and the importance of the desired (or feared) outcome. They also speculate that global, stable attribution for failure will lead to long-term, generalized helplessness and that ingernal attributions will intensify these effects.